music, story, writing, yoga

This just in: The answer is in the music

“Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., writer and physician

On Sunday I sorted through several years of blog posts looking for a story to use for my storytelling class. I found it. Below is an expanded version of an experience I had with one of the students who was non-responsive during the class. It’s a testament to the power of music in every phase of our lives.

I started a busy week of yoga teaching at New York Methodist Hospital. I went to the Geriatric Psychology Unit. Because it is an acute care facility, I always have a different group of patients whom I work with in a small group class. Their cognitive and physical abilities vary widely.Their illnesses are both fascinating and heart breaking to witness. My mind can’t help but go to the thought that some day I and / or the people I know and love may find ourselves in this same situation of loss as the years tick by.

Ruth was one of the students in the class. Though she could hear me speaking, my questions didn’t register in her mind. There was a piano in the room where I was teaching the class. After class was over, Ruth slowly shuffled to it and she played a church hymn that she probably learned as a young child. Every note was perfect and she played with emotion. Her shaking hands steadied. Color came back to her cheeks, and for a moment she seemed truly alive. I was astonished and asked Caroline, the recreational therapist, why Ruth could play the song perfectly but not answer me when I asked, “How are you?” Caroline had a very simple answer. “Music is the very last thing to go from the mind. Reasoning, logic, math skills, speech, and even emotion can be gone, but music sticks with us until our very last days.”

I’m certain that there’s a very sound, neurological reason for this. Maybe musical ability is stored in an area of the brain that is not affected by the loss of cognitive ability from aging. But I think there’s a more mystical, maybe even spiritual, reasoning. It provides a beautiful and powerful justification for making creativity and the arts a very necessary part of our lives at every age. We are literally and figuratively wired for music. When everything else falls away, and I mean everything, we can take comfort in the idea that music will become our final voice to the world.

Holmes’s well-articulated concern has been a part of my life for a long time. I don’t want to spend any time getting ready to live. I want to live now, this and every moment. I don’t want that music stuck in me, never to reach the ears of others, whether it’s actual music or the work I’m meant to do with my life. My electric piano arrived this week, and I’m starting on my childhood dream of learning to play. When I sit down to practice my simple beginner scales, I think of Ruth. And Holmes. And the great continuum of humanity that has shared and reveled in music since our very beginning. I try to let the music come through me rather than from me. Somewhere out there is a cosmic symphony playing along. I just want to tap into it.

Ruth passed away a few weeks after she played her hymn on the piano for us. I’ll never forget that hymn, nor the lesson she taught me by playing it. Her music lives on in me, which is the most any of us can hope for.

change, New York City, yoga

Inspired: The Bittersweet of Goodbye – My Last Yoga Class with My NYC Seniors

From Pinterest“I always think it’s a good thing to move toward the light.” ~ one of my senior yoga students about my move to Florida

I promised myself I wouldn’t cry in front of my seniors at our last chair yoga class yesterday. For the past two years, I’ve smiled, laughed, practiced, and meditated with them. They’re amazing inside and out, and they gave me so much more than I ever gave them.

So I cried, in front of them, on my way through the park toward home, when I opened up the thank you cards and gifts that they bought me, even now while I write this simple post. My friend, Kristy, said it best: we’re so lucky to have these incredible connections and it’s so hard to see them change. I wouldn’t trade my time with my seniors for anything, and I also wish I didn’t have to let them go. It’s all bittersweet and happy-sad, and I’m so grateful for all of it.

books, food, health, yoga

YOGALEAN: Poses and Recipes to Promote Weight Loss and Vitality-for Life. A new book by Beth Shaw.

I took my first yoga teacher training through Beth Shaw’s YogaFit program. At the time, her approach appealed to my desire to cultivate fitness and health without continuing to pound my body through competitive running and heavy gym workouts. Her program caused me to further investigate yoga as a physical, mental, and spiritual practice, and 14 years later, I’m still teaching.

Beth has a new book out this week, YOGALEAN: Poses and Recipes to Promote Weight Loss and Vitality-for Life. This book is perfect for people who want to integrate yoga and nutrition into a 360-degree program to lose weight and increase their energy levels. The book walks readers through cohesive plans for four distinct motivations: amp up energy, promote a leaner body, increase immunity, and promote youthfulness inside and out. Each motivation has a common set of components:

  • Yoga poses that promote a lean physique, strengthen your core, and increase energy
  • Cardio and weight-training workouts to complement your yoga, refine your physical strength, and ward off disease
  • Easy recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks that will help you burn fat more efficiently
  • Stress-reducing and clarity-enhancing daily meditations
  • Breathing exercises to calm your mind and sharpen your focus
  • A one-week jumpstart plan outlining precisely what to eat and how to exercise your body and mind

The book is now on sale in bookstores across the country and online. Congrats to Beth on the next evolution of her mission to bring health and wellness to all people everywhere!


nonprofit, yoga

Inspired: Compass Yoga Closes Its Doors After 4 Years


It is with an incredibly heavy heart, teary eyes, and several boxes of used tissues that I share the news that Compass Yoga, the nonprofit I started 4 years ago with the lofty dream to bring yoga to every person on the planet who wasn’t able to access yoga through traditional classes, has dissolved. Though I tried many avenues to make it financially successful, none of them worked and that stings.

Knowing what to do is important, but knowing what to stop doing is just as important, if not more so. Yoga teaches us that change is inevitable and that we must do our best to see change as an opportunity for growth and learning. Even though I know this is the right choice, it doesn’t make it any less painful to let go of the dream I had for Compass and admit that it just didn’t go the way I had hoped.

We helped hundreds of New Yorkers through our free classes every week, and without our classes our students wouldn’t have been able to learn yoga at all. Compass Yoga received a considerable amount of good press over the years that helped us reach an audience far outside of New York City. We also gave close to 50 new yoga teachers their teaching start by finding and cultivating opportunities for them to teach free classes in our community. It has been an absolute honor to work with all of these people to play a small part in helping them live happier and healthier lives. And goodness, did I learn so much about business, myself, community activism, the economic climate for nonprofits, and yes, yoga, along the way.

In time, I hope all of the good we did overshadows the enormous disappointment and sense of failure I feel right now. These are the tough choices that no one tells you about, the possible conclusion when we try to stretch far beyond what we know how to do or what we think we are capable of doing. When we go way out there into the unknown, we find our edge. And I, without a doubt, have found mine in this realm.

On the upside, I will continue to explore ways that I can personally continue to teach yoga and meditation to the people who need it most. Somewhere in this rain there’s a rainbow and I look forward to finding and following it. Thank you to everyone who has supported Compass Yoga and my dream of it over the years. The light that is in me honors the light that is in each one of you. Namaste.

health, healthcare, meditation, social media, Twitter, writing, yoga

Inspired: Yoga and Meditation for Caregivers

an AFA publicationI am honored to have an article I wrote about yoga and meditation for caregivers appear in this quarter’s issue of care ADvantage magazine, a publication of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA). To dovetail with the article, I was also the invited guest host for AFA’s monthly Twitter chat on this same topic.

The article is available online at

The transcript of the Twitter chat is available at

Happy to answer any and all questions related to this topic!


Inspired: Compass Yoga Partners with Alzheimer’s Foundation of America

Compass Yoga is a proud AFA Member

After a lot of soul-searching, exploring, planning, and just plain working hard, Compass Yoga has found another great partner to help get more yoga and meditation to seniors. I’m so excited to announce that we are partnering with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. Over the next few weeks we’ll be pouring through the incredible amount of information they’ve sent our way to figure out how we can support the work of others and perhaps create a set of new programs as we work together to turn the tide for those facing Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Stay tuned!

art, books, experience, yoga

Beautiful: We Have to Close Our Eyes to Really See

The Little Prince
The Little Prince

“Here is my secret. It is very simple. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry from The Little Prince

“70% of our perception of the outside world comes through the eyes,” said my yoga teacher, Julia. I didn’t realize it was that disproportionate. The eyes are so powerful, so sophisticated that they overpower our other senses if we let them. Close the eyes, and we can hear, feel, smell, and taste with greater intensity. The information from these 4 senses is just as important as our sense of sight. Our combined senses lead us into our emotional intelligence. We need this give-and-take between our internal and external experiences. Together, they create the whole picture of our existence and help us to “see” clearly.

For a few minutes every day, I close my eyes during my waking hours and tap in. I scan my body for signs of change. I feel the ebb and flow of my breath. One of my favorite meditations is a sensory exploration. I imagine a place I’ve been or a place I’d like to go and I rotate through all of the senses to create a complete picture. What does the beach look like? How does it sound? What scents does it have? How does it taste? What does it feel like? And finally, how does it make me feel? This only takes a couple of minutes, and when I finally do open my eyes again, I find that a little piece of the beach is still with me. I carry right there, in my heart, and also in my nose, on my skin, in my mind’s eyes and ears, and even on my tongue.

From there, my experience of the world around me is richer because of what I’ve been able to imagine. Now I see not only what’s right in front of me, but also what’s possible which is almost always invisible to the eyes alone.

meditation, yoga

Beautiful: A Lesson in Yoga – Anxiety and Grief Need to Be Exercised Before We Can Breathe

From Pinterest
From Pinterest

Lately I’ve had unexpected opportunities to talk about yoga and meditation in the context of the health challenges I faced following my apartment building fire. Yesterday my eyes were closed but I could feel the hush of the whirling, swirling minds as I taught meditation to a room full of community aid workers who continue to assist people affected by Hurricane Sandy. My job was to give them a set of tools to use in their work.

After a few techniques, I opened up the floor for questions. One woman asked me how to help people who are in throes of heavy anxiety. In the moments when we need it most, access to our breath as a tool to calm down can fail us. It’s also true that in the deep dark moments of my own PTSD if someone had told me to “close my eyes and just breathe”, I would told them to F- off. And then I would have apologized profusely for being so rude and then explained that I couldn’t help it because in a state of high anxiety, my mind and body are not my own.

In the aftermath of my fire, I would run long distances, working my body to the point of total exhaustion. I would do 20, 30, 40 sun salutations on my yoga mat until I collapsed in a heap on the floor. Only then could I access my breath. Only then would that awful continuous loop of “what if” scenarios stop playing in my mind. I needed to be worn down to the bone, laid bare to the world in order to give myself the help I needed, to find my breath.

I wish this wasn’t true. I wish we could somehow sit ourselves down, invoke our inner Cher a la Moonstruck, slap ourselves across the face,and say, “Snap out of it.” It doesn’t work that way. Anxiety is a strange mistress. It consumes you, tries to destroy you, and then becomes an odd kind of comfort because it does chase away something far worse – the numbness that follows a traumatic event. That lack of feeling, the void, the shock, is worse. It leaves you hollow. And you’ll do anything to keep that at bay.

Here was my advice on breathing and anxiety: give people a way to work with the frantic energy. Help them work it out in the body. Give them a safe space to do whatever they need to do to physically process their grief. Let them talk and say whatever they want to say without fear of being judged. That is a part of moving through it. It cannot be asked to sit. It cannot be asked to breathe. We must allow anxiety and grief to just be for a while. We must recognize it as legitimate. Only then can we move past it. Only then can we find a way to move on. The breath is a tool, but it must be used in the proper place at the proper time.

death, yoga

Beautiful: Celebrating The Life of One of My Dearest Yoga Students

From Pinterest

I stood on the corner of 11th and Bleecker staring at my email on a shiny screen through teary eyes. I found out that one of my sweetest and most dedicated yoga students lost his long battle with cancer.  Today I’m going to his funeral to celebrate his long, happy, and bright life. I’ll be remembering his smile, laugh, and very kind disposition. More than anything I’ll remember the peace that washed over his face as soon as we began the meditation portion of our classes. I’m so honored that I had a chance to know him; my life is richer for it. And I hope in some small way his was, too.